Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook (7)

Taking Action

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” -- Joel A. Barker

So often when it comes to thinking about recovery and change, it’s easy to say or think, “I can’t.” What would it take to change that to “I can” or “I will”? What is it that holds you back from being where you want to be in your recovery? Is it fear? What is the worst thing that can happen if you choose a different path today? Is it a realistic fear? Keep exploring what it is that holds you back.

There's a saying in AA that goes something like: First it gets easier, then it gets harder. After that it gets really hard. Then it gets easier again, and then you start to live. How can you start living? What kind of activity can you engage in that will help your recovery? What is one thing you can do today to support your recovery?

Some guideposts:

Honesty is crucial when it comes to recovery. You must be honest with yourself and with others. Write out a list of ways in which you hide or don’t tell the truth about behaviors or anything related to your eating disorder. In a separate column, write out your truths, things you know are true and would like to share with someone, if not today, one day. Remember, there is no shame in admitting your struggles. Everyone has had them, and it’s important to open up about them.

You don’t have to be great to be successful. We put so much pressure on people and on ourselves to be the best, to be number one. Instead, be unique. Be you. That’s more important. You can do great things when you are healthy, but start by first taking care of yourself and simply being and being OK with that.

Find your identity.  You are not your disorder. In my own case, rather than focus on what I was eating or how much I was exercising, I eventually had to turn my attention inward and ask myself what my passions were. I needed to rediscover what I liked and disliked, what my beliefs were and what stirred my emotions. In doing this, I started to better understand how I could move away from the labels that had bound me for so many years. I had to fight the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones, too. My mantra became, "I am OK and everything will be OK," because I had so many fears and old beliefs running through my mind keeping me from believing that things would ever be even close to OK, let alone good.

Eventually things were good, beautiful at times, but recovery doesn’t mean perfection or perpetual happiness. It means you get to participate in the world again and be alive, really living and engaged in life.

Find, and rediscover, your passions. We all have them, and they can become so buried in our sickness that we either forget how important they once were or discount the idea that we can ever reclaim them.

Write out and describe your likes and your dislikes that are unrelated to the disorder. Reclaim yourself and your identity apart from the disorder. Think about what movies you like, what books move you and what music resonates with you. Explore what it is about a piece of literature, a movie or a song that makes you like or dislike each. Get to know who you are away from anything related to your eating disorder.

Develop personal mantras. What are your mantras? Find some positive affirmations, however pithy, that encourage and inspire you. Write them out and put them around your home, so that you see them often. Come up with positive mantras to use to counter any negative thoughts that enter your mind, even if it’s just thinking, or perhaps saying out loud, “STOP!” An exercise that can help with reconnecting with who you are and finding your identity is describing yourself in a positive way. What are the characteristics, the features and also the things you do that you are proud of or that you like? Are you kind, compassionate, intense or passionate? What do you like to do for fun? What features do you like on your body? What do you do or what would you like to do for a living? Write all of these out and keep adding to your description.

Explore your own recovery. Create your own path, one that is unique and works for you. Write down your goals. Describe your life in recovery and how you want it to be. When you have a picture in your mind of what you would like your recovery to include, you can begin to take steps to get there.

Join a support group or a recovery forum. Some benefits you get from a group is that you can participate in role playing activities. Sometimes just knowing there are others who have gone through similar situations is helpful. Mostly, though, sharing your thoughts and your struggles can be freeing. It can help you better understand your own illness and how to go about healing from it, and it removes some of the shame we often feel when we think we are alone in our struggles.

Become a mentor or find a recovery buddy. Set an example for others and guide them or give back in some way. You don’t have to be 100 percent cured to offer help to someone else in need. You matter. Say to yourself, “I matter.” Practice self-love and self-care by acknowledging how strong you are for having come this far. Always give yourself credit for surviving and getting through another day.

A relapse is not failure. This is vital. If you experience a relapse, look at what happened to get you there and look at how you can get back on track as quickly as possible. Ask yourself what was going on before things went awry and if you were under more stress or if you were feeling overwhelmed. Identify what your triggers are and find ways to move forward. Forgive yourself; this is essential. Get the help and support you need, but keep moving forward. Try to see a setback as learning experience, not an excuse to go backward.

It can be reassuring to know that you have the tools you need in order to recover or recover from a relapse. A bad day or a bad week does not mean you are back in the illness completely. You are always one small move away from getting back on track. No matter how hard it seems, you have the strength to do one thing to support your recovery, even if it means calling a friend or a helpline. You are stronger than you may realize.

If I could give only one piece of advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it would be to hold on to the belief that a full recovery is possible. You may not know what that looks like, but the more you can imagine how you want your life to be, the more you can strive to make it happen.

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